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Rising COVID cases push attention back to schools

 An illustration from the CDC shows some of the agency's recommendations to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in schools.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
An illustration from the CDC shows some of the agency's recommendations to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in schools.

A Michigan organization is asking for a return to masking in schools.

The request is part of a list of demands from the group, Michigan Parent Alliance for Safe Schools, or MiPASS.

Organizer Kathleen Lucas said officials should respond to rising COVID case numbers across the state.

“We are hoping for at minimum a re-recommendation of what people need to be doing in this time to best protect themselves and their communities. That means wearing masks in public spaces, including schools, testing when you’re not feeling well, just staying on top of things,” Lucas said.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said it’s closely watching Michigan’s COVID cases and hospitalizations. It’s recommending schools work with their local health departments to respond.

“Michiganders should continue to pay attention to the CDC transmission levels make personal decisions regarding mitigation strategies accordingly,” a department spokesperson said.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, all Michigan counties but Baraga County in the Upper Peninsula were experiencing high community transmission of COVID, as of Monday afternoon.

The state health department noted that means CDC guidance on wearing masks indoors in public, regardless of vaccination status, would apply.

Lucas said now is the time for Michigan to prepare for another surge.

“Community transmission is greatly affected when masks are required in schools. And that is in a positive way, with less transmission when kids are masking in schools. We also have our under 5 population who does not have vaccines approved for youth still at great risk,” Lucas said.

The 11 demands MiPASS listed include improving COVID-19 data reporting in schools, asking schools to organize vaccination clinics over the summer, and to better ventilation in buildings.

“As requirements have slowed down, with no mask requirements, it seems that our other ways that we can take action have also kind of also slowed down. So, these are definitely things we can be doing even when we’re not in a surge,” Lucas said.

Others measures the group seeks include encouraging testing, moving activities outdoors, and investing in staff retention.

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Colin Jackson | MPRN